The S.C. Legislature will have $292.3 million more to spend next year in its $8.2 billion general fund budget, the state Board of Economic Advisors forecast Thursday.
But that may not be enough to ensure that students in S.C.’s poorest school districts get added state money to help them keep up with students in wealthier school districts.
On top of the $292.3 million in added money that legislators will have to spend, there is also $145 million reserved for one-time costs. The state’s 2018-19 budget takes effect July 1.
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Lawmakers could spend the added money on underfunded state pensions, poor rural schools, shortfalls in higher education and higher teacher salaries. But continued weak revenue collections this year could threaten that spending or the raises that many state agencies want for their employees next year.
In October, general fund revenue collections — made up largely of sales taxes, and state business and personal income taxes — were $29 million below expectations. Collections were down about $14.7 million in September from a year ago.
“There is a little bit of a concern. It’s the third consecutive month that we’re lower than expected,” said Frank Rainwater, executive director of the state’s Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office. “We still don’t believe it’s that bad because of timing and accounting and the usual issues.”